Thursday, 13 December 2012

Star’s real life drama - Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon fans launch worldwide campaign

Fans in uproar over soap actor’s shock departure

By Imran Choudhury

IT has all the ingredients of a Bollywood love story - a handsome hero, swooning female fans and a villain threatening to get rid of the leading man, of course.

Except this is a real-life drama. About a Hindi soap. And it's getting messier by the day.

Female viewers of Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon (What Can I Call This Love?), the UK’s most popular Hindi soap, have launched an international campaign against broadcaster Star Plus for allegedly “forcing out” one of the main lead actors.

Indian actor Barun Sobti, 28, who plays "bad boy" Arnav Singh Raizada in the show has become a heartthrob for many women around the world. But when he announced last month that he intended to leave the show to pursue a career in Bollywood, his female fans were livid.

They are not content with sending letters of complaint to the broadcaster, but have turned to ringing the offices of Star Plus in India at least a "1,000 times daily" in an attempt to to get the channel to bring him back.

"This is not typical show - It's an epic love story," Saijel Shah, an accountant from west London, told Eastern Eye.

"I've gone days without food and sleep because I'm so busy with work and campaigning for Barun to come back.

"They should end the show with him or bring him back for a second season."

Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon, which aired its first episode last June, is a romantic drama featuring Sanaya Irani as a young and chirpy Khushi Kumari Gupta and Sobti as arrogant business tycoon Arnav who feels nothing but hate for her character. But as the drama unfolds, sparks begin to fly between the lead pair.

According to the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB), the show is currently the most watched Hindi drama in the UK and drew 226,200 viewers last month.

Sobti confirmed his decision to leave, saying: "Everyone wants to explore new avenues and I plan to work on a few movie projects now. In future I might comeback to TV someday. I would like to request my fans to continue loving me the same way.”

Female fans, however, are in no mood for love, it appears. There was an additional twist in the real-life drama when some reports in the Indian media speculated that Sobti would be replaced by another character.

Londoner Shah, 35, has been organising a worldwide campaign on social networks and online forums for the past three weeks in order to keep the actor in the show.

She organised a protest, to be held at the Star Parivaar Live show in Birmingham last month (24), but had to ditch it at the last minute after many fans failed to turn up. Shah was also threatened with police action by the venue's manager if the protest went ahead.

"We were disappointed that no one else turned up. We were also told by the organisers there not to make any trouble otherwise they would call the police. We didn’t want to make Barun sad so we decided to leave the protest out," she said.

Since Shah heard the news of Sobti's exit, she has been calling the Star Plus India offices 20 times daily.

"We are thinking of increasing the calls to 1,500 call a day. I get up at 5am in the morning and I start calling around 10 times before I go to work. I usually don't do this. This is not a normal thing for me."

Shah believes he is being forced out by the makers of the show, although the channel has denied this.

Another fan, who has asked for her name not to be revealed, but who goes by the internet ID of Juicee_Sushie on India Forums website and Twitter, told EE: “I never watched any Indian drama prior to this one. When I watched the first episode after my cousin persuaded me to, I was hooked onto it."

The 40-year-old added: “I nearly burst into tears when I heard Sobti was going to leave.. I’ve spoken to hundreds of people in South Africa, Oman, Dubai, India, and in Canada every day.

“It’s similar to when the boy band Take That split up, there were help lines for fans who were distraught, and speaking to fans, it is on that level."

Raj Baddhan, co-founder of and station manager, Sabras Radio, told EE there were "several rumours" about why Sobti was leaving the show.

"That’s exactly what they are. I have spoken to Barun numerous times and he has confirmed it is due to health reasons as filming schedule can be gruelling.

"Of course, there are angry fans who are upset to see their favourite character leave the show - but it's the actor’s own decision. He wants to spend time with his family and pursue other projects including Bollywood.

"Actors come and go, and I remember the same happened when actors left previous shows on the channel. Star Plus remains India and UK’s number one Asian TV channel. The brand Star Plus is bigger than any character and actor."

Rajan Singh, CEO of Star Europe and USA told EE: “When an actor who is instrumental in a particular soap decides he doesn’t want to be in the soap anymore, then it kind of puts us in a very difficult position.

"We have to then work on a storyline which will close the episode, and that’s what we’re going to be doing.

“There's a lot of talk in the past about replacing him, but we were never going to doing that. You can’t replace the chemistry between two people which have made the soap so great."

New drama Kali, which replaced IPKKND's slot, started last Monday (3).

Picture: Sanaya Irani and Barun Sobti


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